Sunday, May 8, 2016

Recycled Paper in the Classroom

Making recycled paper in the classroom is surprisingly easy and yields great results!

Hello Friends and Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there! If you missed last year's post about my awesome mom you can read it here. This year, my husband and kids gave me the gift of a quiet house. Yup, they abandoned me on Mother's Day and that is seriously the best present that this tired teacher momma could ask for! Moments like this are really few and far between.

As a side note, I also wanted to send you back to this post for a free template that makes an amazing display at an open house. My school has an open house for families in May, so I am currently sprucing things up for our visitors (AKA hiding all my piles in closets). This project is an all time favorite and it looks so great when displayed in a Ziploc bag quilt! I love it so much and hope that you can find a great use for it in your own classroom.

Now for the recycled paper! First, I must give credit to Ideas by Jivey and Altered Alchemy for the inspiration behind this project. One of my favorite Pinterest finds for April was this testing anxiety idea by Jivey. My students privately wrote all their worries and fears about the state test on pieces of colorful paper and then shred up the worries with their scissors. Here is our bowl of colorful confetti!


That confetti was displayed in a bag on our chalkboard throughout the two weeks of state testing. Sure enough, the kids thought we were going to throw it in the air on the last day of testing, but thanks to Earth Day and this blog post by Altered Alchemy, I had other plans in mind.

Back at home, I found a roll of wire screen and a staple gun in the garage. Yippee! That cut down on the cost. Then, luckily I scored these wooden picture frames on sale for just 88 cents each at A.C. Moore. They are normally a dollar in the unfinished wood section. I bought five of them to use with my class of 22 students. After my teacher discount, the total was under $4.00!

These frames measure 8 inches by 6 inches along the outside edge, with an inside opening that measures 5.5 inches by 3.5 inches (my desired paper size). You could use any size you prefer, but I decided to keep the sheets small.

These screens are easy to make with inexpensive photo frames, wire mesh, and a staple gun.

It only took a few minutes to staple the wire to the front of the frames and I managed not to hurt myself or others in the process. Those staple guns are no joke!

Here is a view from the back of one of the frames. These frame photos were taken after we used them for recycling, so you will probably notice bits of paper in the mesh. They are still in great condition for next year.


I was worried that we wouldn't have enough paper, so I brought in some newspapers from my recycling bin at home. The students each cut another small pile of paper and added it to the big bowl.


Here is what that mixture looked like.


Then we added enough water to cover the shreds of paper. We mixed it up and let it sit. After one night, the paper started to break down, but we decided to wait a second night in order to get a nice, smooth pulp.


I brought in a box of disposable vinyl gloves so that each child could give the pulp a good stir. I do recommend the gloves if you use newspaper because the news print will leave black stains all over their hands. The paper pulp looked pretty gross at this point, but we sure did have a fun, sensory experience while mixing!


Then it was time to make the paper! This part was so much easier than I had anticipated. Our pulp was fairly thick, so I just had the students reach into the bowl and place globs of the pulp on the screen. They smoothed it out first with their fingers and covered all the holes, leaving a thin layer of pulp on the screen. 


Then, they moved over to a large beach towel at a different table and began to press out the water. First, they pressed with a plastic bag to make the paper nice and smooth. Then, they pressed some more with absorbent paper towels until most of the liquid was removed.


This whole process only took about five minutes per group. I worked with five students at a time. After each student had finished pressing out the water, I simply turned their frame upside down and tapped it on the table. The paper fell right out. We let it sit there on the towel to dry.

After one night, the paper was dry! We were all so pleasantly surprised by the results! To give you an idea of the texture, think about grey cardboard egg cartons. The recycled paper feels very much like that.


Now we are dreaming up ideas for how to use our recycled paper and it was actually so easy to do that we might make some more! Wouldn't recycled book covers be so cool?

If you have always wanted to make recycled paper in your classroom, but were intimidated by the process, don't be! Making the screens is the hardest part and that even turned out to be easy. Go ahead and give it a try. You will be happy that you did!